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April 2006   

Interview: Head On
John Buchanan has been warning that WorkChoices would be a car crash. Now he surveys the damage.

Unions: Do You Have a Moment?
CFMEU Mining national secretary Tony Maher lets fly at the new industrial laws.

Industrial: Vital Signs
In his new book, Craig Emerson argues that destroying unionism will not be in Australia's long term interests.

Economics: Taxing Times
Frank Stilwell argues that there are progressive alternatives to the slash and burn approach to tax reform.

Environment: It Ainít Necessarily So
Don't let anyone tell you that jobs and the environment are opposities, argues Neale Towart.

History: Melbourneís Hours
Neale Towart reluctantly pays homage to Victoria's celebration of the eight hour day.

Immigration: Opening the Floodgates
John Howard is deciding more and more foreign workers should come into this country - without the rights of citizenship, writes John Sutton,

Review: Pollie Fiction
For someone barely 25 years Sarah Doyle has an enviable track record in theatre behind her.

Poetry: The Cabal
Poetry returns to Workers Online with this rollicking ode to employer power.


Democracy in Action
Former NSW Premier Neville Wran's speech to commemorate 150 years of responsible government.

The Westie Wing
There has been activity aplenty in the NSW Parliament this month, reports Ian West.

The Soapbox
From Chaver to Cobber
John Robertson, Unions NSW Secretary, hosting Passover at Sydney Trades Hall discovers the first comrades followed a bloke called Moses.

Postcard from New Orleans
Mark Brenner surveys the long-term impact of Hurricane Katrina on the regions workers.

The Locker Room
My Country Right Or In Lane Five
Phil Doyle observes the golden shower at the recent Commonwealth Games, and asks what it means for the last great unpredictable drama.

Vale Bill Hartley
Unlike some of his comrades, Bill Hartley never departed from his position as a radical nor did he die rich in assets, writes Bob Scates.


The Cowra Clause
The plight of the Cowra meatworkers is a fitting illustration of the way the new industrial laws will fundamentally shift the balance of relations in the Australian workplace.


 Abattoir Boss Slaughters Andrews

 More Slaughter in South Australia

 Pickets Won't Face Cannon

 Teens Win Thousands

 Praise the Laws

 Where The Bloody Hell Is Our Contract?

 Building Crusade Raids Pockets

 Workers Shows Its Hand

 It's All Yellow, Mine Barons

 Lismore Nine Breaks Ranks

 Uber Bosses Clean Up

 Howard's Skills Solution: Sack Apprentices

 Spineless Companies Block Safety

 Boxall in Sickie Backflip

 Activist's What's On!

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 Belly Spreads The Word
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It Ainít Necessarily So

Don't let anyone tell you that jobs and the environment are opposities, argues Neale Towart.


In fact jobs, good jobs, and the environment are practically symbiotic, and don't let Gunns, the Liberal Party, the ALP or anyone else tell you otherwise.

In Sweden the union movement, the government and business realize that the environment, in terms of a simple old livable planet and employment are in lock step, and have committed to having a fossil-fuel free economy by the year 2020. The fact that Sweden already has over 25% of its energy derived from renewable resources is a good start. AND the commitment to no oil by 2020 DOES NOT include more nuclear power stations. Sweden was already committed to phasing these out.

The timber industry claims locking them out of old growth forests (or any other forests for that matter) is bad for communities and jobs. This from companies who have overseen the demise of small scale sawmilling, who export whole forests to others with government subsidies, and who employ fewer and fewer people in their own industries as the technologies involved allow them to harvest more timber with fewer people. The skills of forestry workers in selecting appropriate trees for furniture making, flooring or other uses, and the skills of those who make furniture as carpenters and joiners is not a consideration for those who wish to pulp the lot.

The coal mining industry is concerned to extract as much coal as possible with as few people as possible and ship it out as fast as they can. They are not concerned with the quality of life in the towns around mines, or around the ports where the product leaves from.

Investing in renewable energy resources addresses the issues of good jobs, regional development, equity and the future of humans on Planet Earth. Not such a bad combination.

But as former ALP Finance Minister and now Lavoisier Group head Peter Walsh said, its all fairies at the bottom of the garden stuff. Walsh set up the group to explain why, as John Quiggin put it, "the basic principles of physics, discovered by among others, the famous French scientist Antoine Lavoisier, cease to apply when they come into conflict with the interests of the Australian coal industry." Walsh and his business cohorts (surprising isn't it that members of the H R Nicholls Society and the Business Council are down at the bottom of his garden) are happy to say that the thousands of scientists around the world who urge a precautionary approach are anti-democratic and a threat to our way of life, whilst these scientists look carefully at their models and real life events and say, hold on there should be another way to do things.

Even the Bush administration has acknowledged that energy policy through alternative energy is on the agenda. Our own federal minister has realised that the impacts of climate change will be significant. These two governments, of countries who are large per capita contributors of CO2 are (sort of) facing up. Unfortunately for the planet the way they are doing this is via trying to control world oil supplies, promoting nuclear energy, providing more subsidies to the coal industry for carbon sequestration, a very untried technology, and providing minimal incentives to alternative energy supply, such as geothermal, wind, solar and biomass.

The linkage between these proven technologies (yes proven - we know that use of these alternatives can and does make a significant contribution to reducing CO2 concentrations) and viable, innovative a sustainable manufacturing industry is well made by a recent US study from the Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP) based in Wisconsin..

As the report says:

"It is well understood that a national program to develop renewable energy will benefit the regions and states that have the best renewable resource base - solar, wind, biomass and geothermal. What is less appreciated is that a national program will also create a demand for billions of dollars of components, the parts that make up the finished renewable plants. This demand could if accompanied by appropriate incentives provide important new markets for domestic manufacturers that are already manufacturing equipment similar to the components that go into new renewable generation."

At a time when much US industry and jobs within is being outsourced to China, the report notes that 50 states still have the potential in manufacturing to produce the components needed for various forms of wind turbine energy production. 25 of those states are producing some components used in wind power. Interestingly the 20 states benefiting the most from investment in wind are almost identically the 20 states that have lost the most manufacturing jobs in the country over the past 3 years. These states account for more than 76% of the manufacturing jobs lost. Furthermore,

these states are also the most populous, indicating that investment in wind will

benefit a large range of people in the country."

Phil Toner has argued and demonstrated the crucial links between a successful manufacturing sector and all other employment sectors (See JAPE no 45). He points out that despite claims that we are heading for post-industrial society, OECD economies are still largely devoted to production and distribution of material goods. 50% of productivity growth in the market sector comes from manufacturing, despite manufacturing representing only 14% of total economic output in Australia. This share is far lower than in most other OECD countries. The growth comes about because innovation comes from improved manufacturing techniques. That is productivity is coming from working smarter not harder and longer. In the service and distribution sectors, employees are being forced to work longer and harder to achieve minimal productivity growth, at the expense of their health and families. Cumulative causation explains the links via research, education, housing, welfare, social services and community services. Toner emphasizes the thinkers who have demonstrated how the capital goods sector carries technology change and improvement to other sector.

The Wisconsin study adopts this approach.

How the technology is viewed as a source of jobs is where Greg Sterzinger, director of the Renewable Energy Policy Project, comes in.

Sternzinger's Washington-based nonprofit group has analyzed alternative energy sources for job potential and broke each source down and examined the job potential of component parts and examined the jobs to be had in those industries as well.

"Our methodology was that we would identify the components that are made or could be made, where the parts or renewable technology is, take them apart and break them down into their major component parts," Sternzinger said. "Then we identified each of those and break them down in a highly specific way.

"For example, take a wind turbine apart and find out where the transformer, the blade and the generator are made."

Then the group sought to identify areas of job growth in each of the individual manufacturing sectors for the components.

The analysis proved to be good for the state of Ohio, which does not have tremendous resources for renewable energy. But the Renewable Energy Policy Project study projected an estimated 11,688 jobs in wind energy development for the state, because it has a strong manufacturing base.

It also makes an interesting attempt to show the impact a national development program of renewable energy components would have on jobs. The number of jobs per megawatt of renewable energy produced is said to be with wind power producing 3.5 jobs per mw number, solar/photovoltaic 15.2, geothermal 4.8 and biomass/dedicated steam 4.3. They also break this don into various manufacturing streams, divided by the industry code system used for statistical purposes in the US (like our ANZIC codes) to show jobs in heavy machinery, metal fabrication, machinery manufacturing, computer and electronic manufacturing, plastics and rubber products, electrical components and switches, chemical manufacture and others to show the array of equipment and skills needed to transform the energy sector, the economies of cities and towns to produce world class components that can be used in the USA and around the world, that will improve the environment, quality of work and quality of life. Investment levels and job creation in all the various industries are estimated by area.

The Apollo Alliance, a nonprofit group that works to build jobs from the emerging market, derives its name from President Kennedy's call for action in the space race, and has the motto: "Good jobs, clean energy." The coalition brings together labor, business and environmental interests to work at state and municipal levels to craft long-term policies that support renewable energy.

Richard Eidlin, business outreach coordinator for Apollo Alliance, believes good jobs and investment in renewable energy don't have to be mutually exclusive; in fact, he sees thousands of jobs.

"We can do both," he said at the annual Northeast Sustainable Energy Association conference in Boston Wednesday. "We can have a strong economy and a healthy environment."

The goal of the Apollo Alliance to create an energy-independent America and create jobs across sectors is greatly aided by the fact it is endorsed by 23 national labor unions, including the ALF-CIO and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Martin Aikens, a business agent for IBEW Local 103 in Dorchester, Mass., led the design team at the IBEW's facilities in the installation of a 100k/W wind turbine. The chapter received a grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative for the work done on the turbine. It has also embraced solar technology, training members in installation of solar panels by incorporating photovoltaics into their training facility.

"I am proud of the role of IBEW has played in creating jobs," Aikens said. "We look at jobs in all areas, on the land, maintenance of the technology and renewable energy production."

Mark Dyer, of the Conservation Services Group, had another idea for creating jobs and promoting clean energy. He proposed the mass retrofitting of the Northeast's residential areas to increase energy efficiency.

"We could systematically go to homes and retrofit them at the local level," he said. "People spending $4 billion a year would create 12,000 jobs in direct construction work and work that feeds into it, like sales, marketing, design, deconstruction and manufacturing. That's 30,000 jobs a year for 10 years."

Dyer proposed funding the project with a surcharge on electric bills and convincing homeowners they stand to benefit from energy saving improvements through savings on their utility bills. He said people already spend money on improvements to their homes, and this project would just be a matter of convincing people to make energy efficient improvements like improved insulation and compact fluorescent light bulbs.

"The technology is there, the financing mechanism is there," he said.

The Apollo Alliance's Richard Eidlin said there has to be political support for job development in renewable energy to flourish, however.

"The policy regime has to be well suited in development," he said. "If there is financial support and collaboration between business and labor, literally thousands of jobs that can be created in a short period of time if we have the political leadership and will to get it done."

Why not here? Frank Stilwell has outlined an alternative approach, which these research projects are in line with, and which are necessary for a livable planet. Summing up industry policy approach in four central planks:

∑ policies to nurture industrial innovation as the economic benefits are wide ranging

∑ fostering industries with environmentally sustainable objectives

∑ industrial clusters with a regional focus.

∑ a new institution for the public control of investment, particularly of the vast resources of superannuation funds. Australia Reconstructed proposed a National Development Fund in 1987, another plank of that document that wasn't even a blip on the radar screen.

Here are the funds to really develop renewables, and to ensure we do have progress, not growth. A progressive future requires sustainability, with better quality, not greater quantity.


Post Carbon Sweden:; and

Information on the Apollo Alliance:

The research report from the Renewable Energy Policy Project is at

Phil Toner (2000). Manufacturing Industry in the Australian Economy: Its role and significance in Journal of Australian Political Economy no 45, June pp 18-45


Trade Deficit in Manufactures, Commentary in the Australian Financial Review, 21 August 2004.

Frank Stilwell (2000). Changing Track: a new political economic direction for Australia (Annandale, NSW: Pluto Press) See chapters 15 and 21-22 especially, but read it all.


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